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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Harvest Dinner

This past Sunday, my local vegan group here in Greensboro hosted a Harvest dinner, where guests paid $10 to enjoy a vegan dinner, created from local farmers. We had the dinner at our host Valerie's gorgeous Blue Moon barn, which is also an art and music studio. Valerie, our group organizer Jen, and I worked hard to create a fantastic dinner for a group of around 20 vegans, vegetarians, and those interested in eating that way.

It was a lot of hard work, but at the end of the day, the appreciative smiles and earnest thanks of those we served made it all completely worth it.

For the meal we had appetizers from our local and awesome nut cheeze makers, a pumpkin soup served in a pumpkin, and a pear and walnut salad. For dinner we had delicious crowder bean croquettes with mushroom gravy, roasted root veggies, and kale. For dessert we had a to-die-for apple pie and homemade ice cream. Not only that, but we had a vegan candy toss for all the veggie children. Like I said, it was a great success.

The pictures here were obviously not taken by me. They are all taken by Heather Spealman, our local (vegan) jewelry maker and photographer.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Brandon's Coconut Curry

Heather and I had a wonderful honeymoon in Grenada at a place called The Lodge. The place was fantastic and we highly recommend it. Because the hosts at The Lodge are such wonderful cooks who come up with very creative and unbelievably delicious meals each day, Heather and I came home wanting to create our own delicious meals. While many of the meals we created were not successful and no one will confuse me with a gourmet chef, one meal turned out very well. It's mother-in-law approved and I decided to share it tonight. It's probably way over-spiced (novice that I am) and I'm sure people will undoubtedly have their own renditions for it, but I found this dish to be delicious and perfect just the way it was. So without further ado, here's is Brandon's own Coconut Curry recipe:





Veggies:

1 small head of cabbage
1 Onion, sliced
4 Cloves of Garlic, minced
4 Carrots, peeled and julienne cut
1 Large Zucchini, sliced in rounds
1 Large Yellow Squash, sliced in rounds
1 Red Bell Pepper, Sliced
Scallions, chopped, for garnish

Sauce:
1 Can of Coconut Milk
1/2 Package of Silken Tofu
1/2 Tbsp Thyme
1 Tbsp Cumin
1 Tbsp Curry
1/2 tsp Turmeric
1 1/2 Tbsp Sugar
1 Tbsp Agave
1/2 Tbsp Dried Basil
1 tsp Red Curry Paste
1 Tbsp Ginger
Salt and Pepper to taste

Other:
Jasmine Rice
3 Bay Leaves

Saute onions, cabbage, and garlic in a little bit of water (or a little olive oil if you prefer) until soft, but not brown. Set aside and keep warm.

Prepare rice according to directions.

Steam zucchini, squash, bell pepper, and carrots until soft (but not too soft).

Blend all sauce ingredients together in blender until smooth. Heat in a small saucepan with the bay leaves over medium low heat until heated through, stirring occasionally.

When serving, put a bed of the cabbage, onion, and garlic mixture on your plate. Put a scoop of rice on top of the cabbage mixture in the middle of the plate. Surround the scoop of rice with the steamed veggies. Drizzle the sauce over the top of the rice and veggies. Top with scallions. Enjoy!

This is a great dish that Heather and I truly love. Adjust the spices to your taste and I'd be lying if I said I hadn't tried blending a green chile in there or adding more curry. If any of you try this by the way, please share, as I'd love to hear what other people think of my creation.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Top 5 Dinner Fails


Don't you hate it when you have a fantastic idea for dinner and it turns out to be a bust?
You find a recipe you are excited about. You buy all the ingredients, usually expensive ones. You slave diligently over the stove, excited to share your delicious meal with your loved ones.

Then there is that moment...

You know the moment I'm talking about.

We all know that sinking feeling that occurs when you suddenly realize that your delicious meal is not delicious. It can happen when you taste the recipe to see if you have the right amount of spices. It can happen when you get a whiff of something that doesn't smell quite right. It can happen as you see the look on the face of your dinner partner as they try it.

FAIL.

All cooks, veterans and beginners, have those moments. So tonight I wanted to share with you our 5 top Dinner Disasters:

1. Korma Catastrophe

Our favorite Indian restaurant in Maryland has a delicious korma dish that Brandon loves. He wants nothing more than to replicate it at home. He had already tried making two or three mediocre replicas when, at an Indian market, we found a korma mix packet that was vegan! He was so excited to get home and try it. We bought a bunch of fresh veggies and rice and we were ready to go. The packet said to only put half of the powder in if we wanted the dish to be mild. That was the plan. Brandon forgot and the whole packet went in. When they say that Indian hot is way hotter than American hot, they weren't kidding. That was the spiciest meal we had ever eaten. We tried all the tricks - putting a potato in the sauce to soak up the spices, using more rice than veggies, drinking soy milk on the side. Nothing worked. It was inedible.

2. Seitan Cordon Blues

Brandon wanted to replicate his chicken cordon bleu recipe, but in a more compassionate manner. So, he tried a boiled 'chicken' seitan recipe, with faux ham, and 'cheese,' baked it in the oven. He served it to me and my Mom. It was a bit dry, a lot chewy, and a bit tasteless. We haven't tried it again, but one day I think he'll get it!

3. Crunchy, Basil-y Lasagna

Back before I was vegan or even vegetarian, I had a vegetarian friend. I liked vegetarian food and cooked it at home often, so I thought I'd make her a dinner one night. I had made this delicious lasagna with basil and cheese for Brandon and we had loved it. So, I decided to make that dish for her. I was still new to cooking and when I couldn't find real basil, my innocent, new-to-cooking plan was to use dried basil instead. Now I am horrified at the thought of using dried basil in the same amount as the recipe originally requested of fresh basil... If that wasn't bad enough, I didn't get the right kind of pasta. My friend was a trooper though. She crunched through the uncooked lasagna, the cup of dried basil, and drippy (ew!) cheese with a smile. Poor thing!

4. Blueberry Parfait Horror

Last Fourth of July, my Mom and I made these delicious looking berry parfaits from My Sweet Vegan. It had complicated ingredients, like agar, but we were excited about making them. For whatever reason, whether we cooked the agar wrong or bought a bad batch or the arrowroot was bad, the parfaits turned out chalky and horrible with bits of congealed agar floating around with the blueberries.

5. Curried Pumpkin Black Bean Soup

Sounds good doesn't it? I should have known that the recipe wasn't a good one when the recipe said to garnish with sour cream and eat with tortillas. I didn't listen to my instinct though, and made this terrible, watery soup that didn't have much of a taste at all. Luckily, we were able to make it edible with a lot more spices, some peas, and hot sauce.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Vegan Suggestions

I'm extremely excited! While I eagerly awaited my trip to Portland, OR (or Vegan Meca as I sometimes refer to it) last August, I dreamt of Go Max Go vegan candy bars. I waited and waited and then finally the day arrived, we took our trip, and we found ourselves purchasing these delectable treats from Food Fight Grocery in Portland. These candy bars were everything I wanted them to be and Heather and I looked at each other with sad eyes as we left Portland to return to the east coast, both of us pawing at the windows as we salivated over candy bars that we knew we'd never see again... or at least not until we returned to Oregon again next year (I did grow up there after all).

A couple of weeks went by and Heather and I continued to long for the chocolatey goodness that we'd experienced in Oregon. We looked and looked for these bars all over Greensboro and Winston-Salem and I even searched for them during a business trip to D.C. (where I lived for several years). Alas, I searched without success.


Then one day, we were at Earth Fare when we happened to notice as we were leaving, a suggestion box. Heather and I figured it couldn't hurt, so we filled out a request
for Go Max Go candy bars. Well, recently Heather and I perused the candy section of Earth Fare and to our excitement, we found that they now carry them!!!!! I've never actually made a suggestion to a store before, so I was so happy that they'd listened to our request! Now we have to control our urges to indulge in these delicious things 24-7 instead of dreaming about them (okay, maybe I still dream about them a little). Heather and I have been so happy to have them available to us. We give them a paw and a fist up.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Yoga and Quinoa Sweet Potato Salad

I absolutely adore yoga. It calms me down when I'm stressed. It helps me stay focused and centered. Not only that, but it tones my body and makes me feel strong. I've been doing yoga for roughly six years now. Strangely enough, I was introduced to yoga in the military when our Physical Training Instructors brought it into the mix. I've always been flexible, so I thought I'd be good at it and excitedly signed up for the first class. Deep down, I think I wanted to show off. One hour later, I was surprised by my lack of flexibility. I was sore in muscles I didn't know I had, but I was extremely relaxed.

I was also hooked.

Six years later, with intermittent regularity, I've been practicing. I take classes when I can, but mostly I practice at home on my own, or I use the fantastic website, Yoga Today. I wish I could afford to take classes in a studio, but it's just too darn expensive. If you haven't tried yoga, I highly suggest you give it a whirl, even if you don't fancy yourself flexible. It's definitely not about being flexible. It's about something entirely different and if you go, you'll find out what that is.


Anyway, I told you all of that so I could introduce a delicious salad Brandon and I enjoyed last night. I bought the most recent Yoga Journal (November 2009). In it are a couple of recipes for warm winter salads. I almost flipped by, since salads are one of those things that don't really spark my interest, but one of the recipes contained the three magic words that always catch my eye: quinoa, sweet potatoes, and kale. Those are my three favorite ingredients! I decided to try it out... and let me tell you, even my seriously skeptical husband was impressed. Now run out, buy or borrow the November Yoga Journal, flip to page 38 and make this salad. Replace the honey with agave nectar and you are golden... and maybe, just maybe, you'll read the rest of the magazine and be inspired to start your own yoga practice.

Enjoy and Namaste!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Monday Night Vegan Football

Are you ready for some football? Chances are, there are not an abundance of football fans reading this blog, so "no" would likely be the common answer. However, this won't stop me from blogging about it anyway. This week, I get to watch the Denver Broncos play against the San Diego Chargers. Because of this, I've made my football snacks match the times that I've
spent in both Denver and San Diego.
A long time ago, in a West Coast far, far away, I was a surfer. And yes, as a surfer, my travels often led me to strange lands like San Diego, which according to Ron Burgundy means "a whale's vagina." In San Diego, citrus fruits and avocados reign supreme which is lucky for me, because there are few things that I love as much as a good avocado.
With that in mind, I've made guacamole, with a citrus twist.

Brandon's Easy-and-Obvious Guac


2 Avocados, ripe and ready
1/4-1/2 cup of your favorite salsa (I dig Newman's Own Chunky Garlic)
1/4 fresh cilantro (way chopped up)
Juice of half a Navel Orange
Juice of half a small Lemon
Juice of half a Tangerine
A few chopped up Scallions
1/4 cup Diced Onion
Dash to Dashes of Paprika, Salt, Pepper, and Chili Powder
A little hot sauce if you like, I'm all about Cholula

Mash it all up in a bowl and serve immediately. This goes great with chips or anything else you'd like to dip with and it's an excellent way to bring a little San Diego into your home.

The pictures of the guac were even worse then usual this time, so I decided to just put up a nice picture of an avocado. And now I'm hungry.


From Denver, we have mostly meat-based dishes, especially Rainbow Trout and Steak. However, Coors beer is known to "tap the Rockies" arguably making it the most recognizable edible item that stems from Denver. I hate Coors beer. However, did you know that Coors is vegan? And do you know what other beer Coors makes? Blue Moon. Yes, Blue Moon. Blue Moon is a very good beer and is very much worth trying out. Because it's brewed by Molson, just like Coors, Blue Moon is also vegan and is an excellent complement to my guac and chips (for the record, I'm digging Kettle Chips: Krinkle Cut... and
they're absolutely fantastic!)

So sit back tonight, watch the game, and enjoy some vegan guac, chips, and and ice cold beer. I can't think of anything better for Monday Night Football. Can you?


Saturday, October 17, 2009

Vegan Night Out - Boba House and Downtown


Once upon a time, in a tiny little city called Greensboro, two vegans went out to dinner at the only vegetarian restaurant in town...

Boba House

Brandon and I are deeply grateful for the existence of Boba House. Without it, we would be relegated to having date night at restaurants with only one or two sketchy vegan options. At Boba, we have many choices, plus the food is really good and the atmosphere is truly unique. Plus they have vegan desserts!

Since the University of North Carolina, Greensboro (UNCG) is located here, there are a lot of college kids downtown. Thank goodness for them! Without them, we wouldn't have the adorable artsy, downtown area that we have. And we definitely wouldn't have Boba House.

If you are looking for a great night out in Greensboro, start with Boba. I suggest starting with the Crispy Spring Rolls, then ordering the Eternal Bliss with "chicken" or "shrimp." Interesting side note: Boba makes all their own faux meats, so you are really getting something original and different. Finally, make sure you order the Kahlua Cake for dessert. You won't be disappointed.


Afterwards, see a movie at the historic Carolina Theater or catch a live play at the Triad Stage. Or you could just walk around downtown, check out all the lovely stores and numerous art galleries. There are antique stores, cute little shops, and places to grab a beer. You'll find plenty to keep you occupied downtown.

Greensboro is a small city, but it is a unique one and it has a lot to offer to the visiting vegan. If you find yourself in the area any time soon, make sure you stop at Boba House and enjoy all the city has to offer.

Until next time!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Vegan MOFO Indian Night!



Tonight I made Vegetable Korma. There are many ways to make Korma, and I've tried several of them. This is the best I've tried so far, though I messed with the recipe a little bit. I got the recipe from an awesome website for an Indian restaurant, where the owner posts recipes for the dishes they serve. It's fantastic! I've tried cooking several of the recipes, and I especially recommend trying the sweet saffron rice if you happen to feel the need to spend money on saffron (totally worth it). Below is the picture of the goodness:


I used different veggies so as to use whatever I had hanging around the house, and I definitely recommend putting an onion in there. I also would like to use coconut milk next time, blended with cashews instead of soy milk and corn starch, which I used according to the recipe.

Heather and I make some sort of Asian-influenced dish at least once a week. We love curries and dishes with plenty of flavor; and I'm kind of a carb-junkie so I dig anything I can put over rice (or pasta, but that's a different story). Seriously though, check out this site, check out Asian-inspired recipes, and definitely check out my stir-fry that we posted last week. These are dishes that are usually pretty healthy, delicious, and versatile. Most of them are pretty easy too. Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Work Potlucks


What's worse than attending a work potluck as a vegan?

Organizing a work potluck as a vegan.

Tomorrow my office is having a big office potluck. I'm the secretary, so I usually do the planning on most of my office's work functions. Luckily, the people I work with are wonderfully supportive of my veganism, so that isn't the issue. I'm not around meat a lot, so these functions kind of throw me into the meat world again. For example, everyone wants a meat dish, so I have to deal with a lot of meat talk. What kind of meat do we want? How much meat do we want? So far, I haven't had to take their money and actually buy it yet. Other people have always volunteered.

Also, I usually take up a collection of money and go out and get snacks and extras. Of course, people always ask for things I don't want to buy, like those big bags of Halloween candy that contain Snickers, Milky Ways, etc. Today, I just ignored all the suggestions and bought a big bag of vegan candy. There was a lovely bag of Swedish Fish and Sour Patch Kids at the grocery store. I got plain chips, nuts, and pretzels. I figure, if they don't like it, then they shouldn't send the vegan to buy it.

Then comes the actual potluck - a lot of people weighing their plates down with all sorts of different non-vegan stuff, while looking at my measly (but delicious) plate with pity. "Oh, that's right... you can't have this cake, can you? It has eggs in it. I'm sooo sorry."

Needless to say, I kind of dread tomorrow. Not that I expect anyone to go out of their way and make anything that I can eat. I really don't. I would be terribly embarrassed if they tried to accommodate me. I'm always prepared for these events anyway. My trusty PB&J and me get along just fine. However, I do know that at least one wonderful person will make something that I can eat. Also, I can eat my lovely dish. You know, the one that is going to be out of place around all the mayonnaise-drenched potato salads and chicken wings. I made Veganomicon's Lentil Salad. I haven't tried it yet, but it looks delicious and I know I will enjoy it a lot tomorrow, alongside the pasta salad I know will be vegan. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Vegan Milks


I used to love a glass of milk. I know, many people cook with milk, many have it in their cereal, many hardly use it. I however, love a glass of milk. As a vegan, I've found things that fill that desire very easily. Everyone knows about soy milk, but they usually dismiss it as a possible beverage, rather using it to cream their coffee or in the above uses. For me it was a little different.

When I was a kid, all I drank was whole milk. I hated 2% and I wouldn't drink it. Around late high school I began realizing that maybe whole milk was a little too much for me, so I finally made the switch. At first I didn't like the 2% milk, but after a couple of we
eks, I got used to it. Eventually, I only liked 2% and hated whole milk and 1%. A few years later I made the same switch to 1% and the exact same thing I happened. I learned to prefer 1% and no longer enjoyed 2%. This happened again when I went to skim milk and again when I went to soy (this was before I went vegan). By the time I went vegan, I had already been past the taste of dairy milk and was
pursuing other milks. Now, while I still enjoy a glass of soy milk upon occasion, I greatly prefer some of the other milk options out there. And as a former milk junkie, here are my recommendations for the booby-juice lover in you:

So Delicious Coconut Milk

This stuff is frea
kin' awesome! It's got a subtle hint of coconut with the same thin consistency of skim milk or 1%. Once again, it's been a long time since I could stand the thickness of anything higher than 1%, so the thinness of this coconut milk is awesome. Additionally, the flavor is phenomenal and hits parts of your taste buds that dairy never even considered going near! This stuff is expensive, but if you can catch it on sale or are willing to splurge, it's totally worth it!


Rice Dream Enriched Rice Milk

This is a good staple that you can find in most natural food stores; at Earth Fare, Whole Foods or equivalent; and even at many grocery stores, including Wal-Mart (where it's very affordable in the cereal section in cardboard containers). This has the thinness that I like combined with a unique flavor that I truly enjoy. Give it a little bit of time to get used to the taste and eventually you'll find it as delicious as I do.

I know that these are obvious for many vegans, but I found myself needing to share with other milk drinkers these two products. Of course there's always soy milk, and I prefer Plain Silk brand for those who are interested or the Plain Kirkland brand from Costco. However, I try to limit my soy intake, and because I love Tempeh, I figure drinking rice and coconut milk is a good way to do that. Besides, rice and coconut milk rock.

Now if only I could find a healthy and cheap single malt scotch...

Monday, October 12, 2009

Comfort Food: Potatoes!

My ultimate comfort food is the potato, in any of its various forms. I know it sounds pretty boring, but if we were honest with ourselves, comfort food often is kind of boring. It's the Mac and Cheese that people call comfort food, not the gourmet dishes. Of course, everyone has a different favorite comfort food. It seems to me that comfort food usually reminds us of growing up, giving us fond memories of excitedly awaiting dinner as a child. Sometimes, it simply makes our bellies sigh in happiness. For me, I think it's because a lot of my family's dishes centered around that deliciously starchy tuber. For some reason, it makes me feel happy, safe, and warm. Baked, fried, hash browned, boiled, mashed - any way you can cut or cook it - it still has that effect on me.

On today, Comfort Food Monday, I wanted to share with you a list of my top five favorite potato dishes, in no particular order:

1. Potato soup

2. A big bowl of mashed potatoes with Punk Rock Chickpea Gravy (from Vegan with a Vengeance), piled high, with corn on the side.

3. Baked potato with all the fixings (broccoli, fake bacon bits, Tofutti sour cream, chives, etc.)

4. Fries! (this is a given though)

5. A simple pile of mashed potatoes with a dollop of Earth Balance, a veggie on the side, and either Chickpea Cutlets or Smokey Grilled Tempeh (both from Veganomicon).

I also stumbled across a different and awesome way to prepare my favorite veggie. This idea comes from another MOFO'er. I was looking through our fantastic list of MOFOing vegan blogs and found this gem - Welsh Onion Cake on The Great Vegan Conspiracy blog. Onions? Potatoes? Cake? I was instantly in love and had to make it. This recipe did not disappoint. The potatoes practically melt in your mouth. If you love potatoes, definitely give this lovely dish a try.

I hope everyone else is enjoying all the lovely food posted by all the MOFO'ers this month. There is no end to the all the gorgeous food flooding the web. I'm hoping to find more favorites as the month goes on.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Vegan MOFO Football Sunday: Pasta Salad

I don't know a man alive who doesn't love pasta salad. Additionally, I can't think of anything more manly than products with names such as Veganaise and Tofutti Sour Cream. With that in mind, one of my very favorite foods for football Sunday is my Mother-in-Law's famous pasta salad.

I don't know how she does it. I follow the same recipe. I use the same same methods, the same ingredients, the same ways of cutting vegetables... and yet my pasta salad never comes out quite as perfect as hers. Still, even when a novice like me butchers the recipe, it still comes out delicious, albeit not as delicious as when Mom makes it. She gave me permission to share the recipe, so you're all very lucky. Try it. Seriously.

Mom's Famous Pasta Salad:

Ingredients:

Box of spiral pasta (cooked according to the package directions, and then drained and cooled)
Veggies of your choice (I used diced up onion, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, red bell pepper, and frozen peas thawed out)

Sauce:
3/4 Cup of Veganaise
3/4 Cup of Tofutti Sour Cream
2 Tablespoons White Wine Vinegar
2 Tablespoons Sugar
Salt and Pepper to taste


Mix all the sauce ingredients until smooth. Toss the pasta and the veggies together in a large bowl. Mix sauce in with the pasta and veggies. Cover and refrigerate. Enjoy whenever you like, stirring before serving. It's best when you give it overnight for the flavors to mix together.

That's it! Easy and delicious!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Veganized! Pasta with Walnut Sauce and Broccoli Raab

I waste a lot of hours reading the NY Times online. Maureen Dowd? Gotta love her. Plus, they always have these awesome looking recipes in their Health section. I rarely try them out, because I'm just not good at veganizing things. The other day, though, I found myself drooling over the Pasta with Walnut Sauce and Broccoli Raab. It is vegetarian, but not vegan. Since I had a big bag of walnuts lying around, I decided to veganize and see if it turned out to be as good as it looked.... and boy, did it. It was a perfect, creamy, light pasta dish. I'm very proud of my veganization of this recipe, even though I only had to replace a couple of ingredients.

So, here is what we did. We replaced the 1/3 cup of ricotta cheese with a 1/3 cup of the Vegan With a Vengeance recipe Basil-Tofu Ricotta and we replaced the 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese with a 1/4 cup of nutritional yeast. Also, I didn't have walnut oil, so I simply didn't use it at all... and I wonder just how much of a difference it would make if you did use it? We didn't have broccoli raab either. We just used regular old broccoli. It's a really simple fast recipe and it's very delicious. I highly suggest trying it out!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Comfort Food: Soup and Cornbread

Sometimes you just need cornbread. I don't know what it is. Perhaps there's a certain smell to the air, a particular feeling in your toes as you get up out of bed in the morning, or a specific type of car that cuts you off on your way home from work. Whatever it is, it's urgent when it hits, and it's critical to respond. Cornbread. Necessary. Now.

Now, a key element of having cornbread is the ability to dip said cornbread into a substance of some sort. Heather makes an unbelievable potato soup, so when I expressed my cornbread desire and Heather mentioned potato soup I was instantly sold. It was as if clouds had opened in front of me, showing potato soup as the ideal complement to my sudden need for corn bread. So it was decided, so it was made.

And so it was, a wonderful dinner was made, another low quality picture taken, and tremendous deliciousness ensued. We used the cornbread recipe from The Joy of Vegan Baking, which is a book that freaking rocks! The lovely Heather's perfect soup recipe is as follows:

Ingredients:

4-6 Medium Yukon Gold Potatoes (Peeled and cut into chunks)
6 Cups Veggie Broth
1 Onion (Diced)
2 Garlic Cloves (Minced)
1 Tbsp Rosemary (Crushed)
1/4 Tsp White Pepper (or black pepper to taste)

In a large stock pot, bring veggie broth to a boil. Add potatoes, onion, and garlic. After 15-20 minutes, or when the potatoes are soft and easily pierced with a fork, ladle half the mixture in a blender or food processor (carefully! Don't burn yourself.) and puree until creamy (also carefully!). Pour the blended mixture back into the pot, stir. Add pepper and rosemary. Simmer on medium-low for roughly ten minutes. Serve hot with corn bread.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Best Stir-Fry Ever

At least once every two weeks, if not every week, Brandon and I make a stir-fry.

We use all sorts of veggies, spices, and sauces. Over the years, it has been perfected into an awesome, infallible dish, which we are going to share with you.

Brandon created quite possibly the best stir-fry sauce on the planet. It is flavorful, yet mild. So it complements almost any veggie combination you can think of. Using this base, we've thrown together a very traditional Asian Stir-fry: bell peppers, bok choy, zucchini, squash, etc. We've also gone crazy and put a lot of unlikely stir-fry veggies in there together, like sweet potatoes (zapped in the microwave to get them a little soft), eggplant, brussel sprouts, or turnips. It all tastes good in this sauce... seriously. Throw in a protein of some sort, if you'd like: pre-baked tofu is fantastic; chickpeas are divine; or, like you'll see below, marinate some tempeh and throw it in. Have fun with it! We definitely do.

This is the basic Asian stir-fry recipe we use on a regular basis:

Ingredients:

Rice, as much as you want or need (my favorite is Jasmine rice with this recipe)

1 Tbs toasted sesame seed oil (this is practically mandatory, although you could use other oils if you absolutely have to)
Roughly 1 tsp ginger powder (a little less or a little more depending on your love of ginger)
3 garlic cloves
1 medium onion, halved and sliced thinly
2 carrots, sliced thinly
1 bell pepper (red or yellow are the best), sliced thinly
1 zucchini, sliced
1 yellow squash, sliced
2 bunches baby bok choy, rinsed and sliced into chunks

Brandon's Awesome Stir-fry Sauce

3/4 Cup veggie broth
1/4 Cup Hoisin sauce
2 Tbs soy sauce
2 tsp corn starch

Tempeh Marinade

3/4 Cup veggie broth
2 Tbs soy sauce
1 Tsp sweet red chili sauce (or any chili sauce you have on hand or red pepper flakes)
crushed garlic clove
1 tsp toasted sesame seed oil
(optional) 1/2 tsp - 1 tsp liquid smoke (it's just however much smoky flavor you want)

1 hour and 30 minutes beforehand: heat up a medium sized pot full of water. Chop up your tempeh. Once the water is boiling, throw the tempeh in for 15 minutes. While that cooks, get your marinade together. Find a shallow dish. Once the tempeh is finished, drain it and put it in the shallow dish. Pour the marinade over it. Cover and let it sit for an hour, tossing occasionally.

Put your rice in your rice maker and cook according to the directions on the bag.

Chop up all your veggies. Put your sauce ingredients in a bowl and mix thoroughly. Grab a wok or a nice, big skillet and heat it to medium high heat. Pour your toasted seasame seed oil in and let it heat up. Throw in your onions and carrots. Cook till the onions are translucsent and the carrots are softening up, about five minutes. Put in your garlic and ginger. Cook it for another minute. Toss in your tempeh (not the marinade though). Let the tempeh brown a little. Give it maybe five minutes or so. Toss in your zucchini, squash, and bell pepper. Let it cook for a minute. Pour in your sauce. Let it come to a boil. Turn down the heat a little and let it cook for about 5-7 minutes, uncovered. Stir occasionally. Put in your bok choy and cover. Cook for another 5-7 minutes or until your veggies are still slightly crisp.

Serve, and enjoy!!!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Co-Opping


As Heather has mentioned in a previous post, we're broke. And while we'd like to say that we always shop organic, buy local, and avoid such evil establishments as Wal-Mart, the truth is, a savvy and financially challenged vegan must find ways to adapt.

We've scouted areas for the cheapest buys. We purchase cheap rice milk and soy milk at Wal-Mart, along with Boca and Amy products when necessary. We also keep an eye out for organic canned beans and whole wheat pasta, which sometimes makes an appearance. Our local Earth Fare and/or Whole Foods is where we get our novelty items. And veggies come from any of the farmer's markets we can find (one of which is open year round off of highway 40 between Greensboro and Kernersville). Harris Teeter, the local grocery market has great deals on many sauces, pastas, and fruits and vegetables. Costco is a good place for us to get baby spinach, frozen fruit, oranges, almond butter, and Cliff bars (my usual breakfast). And finally, we have our local Co-Op, Deep Roots.



Deep Roots has just about everything we like, from organic and local produce, to Sun Burgers, to Vegenaise, to Primal Strips and most other delicious vegan items. While it isn't huge, it has most of the things you look for when you're trying to cook for the week, and we shop there often. The one thing that makes it awesome, and the greatest thing on the planet is the spice section!

While I realize that most savvy shoppers have explored the bulk spice aisles in their favorite grocery stores, this has been a fairly new endeavor for us. For years now, we've spent big money on little jars of spices, thinking that spices were just expensive and we'd have to deal with it. However, Deep Roots has a wonderful bulk spices section that includes most anything I'm looking for, including beet powder, to my pleasant surprise the other day! And to top it off, the items in this section are cheap! I bring in a spice jar that I already have, the cashier is nice enough to pre-weigh it for me, and then I fill it up with my favorite spice. In the end, I wind up spending usually around 10-20% of the amount that I spend in the grocery store, and since I'm re-using the same jars over and over again, I'm reducing a little waste as well. I highly recommend it for anyone in the Greensboro area.

If you don't live in the Greensboro area, fear not! It's very likely that you too have a nearby Co-Op or some sort of natural market. Perhaps it'd be worthwhile to check it out. You might find spice bargains of your own!

Until tomorrow!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Delicious and Cheap Spaghetti Bolognese


We're pretty broke.

So, Brandon and I are always looking for delicious, cheap meals to help get us through the financially tight times without sparing flavor. Who says you need to eat bland, unseasoned bean soup every night just because you are a little low on funds?

I wanted to share with everyone one of our favorite "poor" dishes: Spaghetti Bolognese. It costs less than $10 and it will feed four people or, in our case, two people (one with a voracious appetite) for both dinner and lunch the next day.

Although the recipe looks deceptively simple and flavorless, it is not. Just make sure you use some really good veggie broth, plenty of Italian spice and oregano, and you are set. It's one of those recipes that you can totally mess with and make your own, although it is seriously fantastic just as it is. Enjoy!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Vegan Awesome Football Sunday


Every Sunday, I eagerly await 1:00 for the NFL games to start. While many may not appreciate the greatest sport on the planet as much as I do, the event of swearing at the T.V. coupled with the presence of junk food can be enticing for anyone. It was a conversation with my friend Dwayne about junk food that led to this question, "Hey Brandon, are onion rings vegan?" Dwayne is not a vegan, however his question peaked my interest and while I'd yet to find vegan onion rings in a restaurant or in the frozen section of my local food stores, I responded with a simple "they could be." From that point on I began speculating on ways to make vegan onion rings. Naturally, it's easy to simply deep fry some onions, smother them in sauce and be content. However, if I was really going to do this, I wanted that fried shell encasing the onion ring. You know, the kind that is sturdy enough that when you take a bite, sometimes you rip the entire onion out and you're left holding a greasy shell of a ring. This is the kind of junk food I was looking for, and I'm happy to say that the following picture was the result:


Pretty awesome huh? Tasted fantastic and was perfect for football Sunday! So the next time somebody wants some greasy sports-watching food, try this out. You need a deep fryer with lots of oil. You can use Crisco or vegetable shortening, but I used vegetable oil.

Ingredients:

Bread Crumbs (I used Panko Bread Crumbs)
Two Onions
About 6 Cups of Oil for the deep fryer
About 1/4 Cup of Flour

Batter:
I used a basic vegan pancake batter from the book "Vegan with a Vengeance" by Isa Chandra Moskowitz, omitting all spices other than salt. You can use your favorite vegan pancake batter!

Directions:
Cut off the ends of the onions and peel the skin. Slice the onions whole so that rings are created. Dip each ring in flour, coating it. Then, dip the ring into the batter until completely covered, then dip into the bread crumbs coating each side until covered. Put on a plate, ready to be deep fried. Repeat this with all rings.
Deep fry the rings in batches according to your deep fryer's instructions and capacity.

Season how you like, using any dipping sauces you want and enjoy!

I didn't season them, I used Barbeque sauce, ketsup, and Cholula hot sauce. It was absolutely fantastic! Enjoy the food and enjoy the game!



Saturday, October 3, 2009

A Vegan Saturday in Greensboro


We moved to Greensboro, NC from Maryland/D.C. area about a year ago. We knew that we would be losing many of the options that we had become accustomed to. Bracing ourselves for that fact, we moved. Greensboro definitely does not have many options for vegans, but there is actually more here than we anticipated. So, during MOFO, I wanted to share with everyone the cool stuff vegans can eat and do in Greensboro.

Meetup.com has been a great help to us in finding other like-minded individuals. In Greensboro, we have a vegan meetup group and an animal welfare meetup group. We have met such wonderful people in our area through this site and attended many an awesome potluck.

Anyway, today, we met with our animal welfare group to help out at a yard sale/bake sale to raise funds. We plan to use the money to start up an unchaining project, where we go to people's homes and offer to build fences for them if they will spay/neuter their dog and take them off of the chain. We hoped to raise enough money to complete our first project.

I baked Isa's delicious Coffee Chip Muffins for the event... and although I couldn't find coffee granules (or afford the $7 coffee extract), they were still delicious as plain, old Chocolate Chip Muffins.

It was a long day, but it was really successful and I believe we earned enough to start our first unchaining project!


Afterward, we went to a really fantastic local restaurant called Jack's Corner Mediterranean Deli. It isn't a vegan restaurant or even a vegetarian one, but it has many vegan options, all of which are notated on the menu with a cute little carrot. One of the most fantastic items on the menu at Jack's is the vegan falafel burger. Yeah, you heard that correctly... a falafel burger. It comes with these insanely good seasoned fries. This restaurant has all sorts of awesome options for vegans. If you happen to be in the area, you should totally stop by and have something from Jack's. You won't regret it.

Afterwards, we were exhausted and came home to relax and watch movies for the rest of the evening. It's been a long day, but also a very satisfying one.

Until tomorrow, happy MOFOing!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Comfort Road: Field Roast Love Part Two


In part two of our Field Roast love-fest, I wanted to bring back an old favorite. After all, that really is what comfort food is all about right? Nostalgic properties, hearty taste, and a love affair with your plate. With this in mind, imagine the excitement I had when at my local Earth Fare (essentially a Whole Foods equivalent) I found a Field Roast Meatloaf. This is a new product, but we fearlessly put our faith in Field Roast and concocted a typical comfort meal of champions: meatloaf, green beans, and mashed potatoes and gravy. Being a condiment person myself, I enjoyed a little ketsup mixed with some Cholula Hot Sauce (a current obsession).

I want to make sure no one thinks that all we consume is Field Roast. Left to my own devices and with unlimited finances, sure I'd be known to eat some sausage and peppers, meatloaf, and other items on a consistent basis, but we also enjoy some good old fashioned veggies. However, since this is comfort food at its finest, we'll worry about that later.

We decided that we couldn't really do much better for comfort food than to use this meatloaf, some green beans (plentiful even this time of year) and good old fashioned mashed potatoes and gravy. The result was a picture perfect resemblance of home, completed by the presence of duck-pond potatoes.

Awesome Deliciousness

This turned out to be a fantastic Friday night dinner. You can go through all the work of making an excellent Lentil Loaf if you want to, with home-made gravy and everything... or you can do the Friday night comfort food and use Field Roast and Road's End Gravy Packets. Either way, you'll end up with a delicious vegan feast fit for even the most difficult omnivores and the most finicky vegans. At roughly nine bucks, the meatloaf isn't cheap, but it fed two of us (three if you figure that I eat enough for two people) with enough left over for sandwiches the next day. The entire meal cost us about $15, not counting the ketsup and hot sauce and we very happy with the results. We highly recommend giving this meal at least one chance.


Thursday, October 1, 2009

Vegan MOFO and Vegan Sausage & Peppers

This month we’re participating in Vegan Month of Food (MOFO). What’s that, you ask? Well, it’s similar to the month of writing done every year for the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), except it’s about sustaining intensive food blogging for the whole month. The rules are that we can write about anything we want, as long as it’s about vegan food and it’s written often.

So, Brandon and I set up a few themes to help inspire us throughout the month ahead.

Sunday - he’ll write about football food, since that his favorite thing to do on Sunday is eat and watch football.

Mondays - we’ll discuss our favorite cheap dinners that have gotten us through our little financial rough spots.

Tuesdays – Grocery shopping tips in Greensboro, NC and beyond.

Wednesdays – Our favorite Asian foods.

Thursdays – I’ll discuss my favorite kitchen tools. It’ll be an Ode to a Kitchen Tool, of sorts.

Friday – Comfort food night!

Saturday – Vegan Night Out in Greensboro, NC.

Since today is our kickoff, I decided not to go with one of my favorite kitchen tools. Instead, I want to share with you one of my favorite vegan pre-made grocery store buys in an easy-peasy recipe that I make all the time: Vegan Sausage and Peppers.

Before my revelation, when I was still eating animal flesh, this was my specialty. Everyone loved it. I couldn’t even cook, and it was a hit. Mainly because the key is to the let the flavors stand alone, without a whole lot of hubbub, so it was easy, easy, easy. When I went vegan, I thought, there goes that. I tried unsuccessfully to replicate it. I used Tofurky sausages, seitan, and even vegan breakfast sausages in desperation. Nothing hit that perfect note I was looking for. I finally just gave up.

Then I discovered Field Roast Smoked Apple Sage sausages.

I thought, why not try it out?

It was absolutely perfect. It doesn’t exactly taste like sausage (thank God), but it is delicious and flavorful and hits all the right notes. So, without further ado, here is the simple recipe I use to make this easy meal.

Vegan Sausage and Peppers

Tbs of olive oil

One large onion, quartered and sliced thin

Two garlic cloves (or garlic flakes or powder, whatever you got!)

Three bell peppers of varying colors, sliced and cut into thin strips (or thick, whatever you like)

Field Roast Smoked Apple Sage sausages, cut into thin rounds (or thick, whatever you like)

Pepper

Pinch of red pepper flakes

A little soy sauce or Braggs

2 Tbs of water

Jasmine or Basmati rice (you can use other rice variations, but this is the best for this)

Put your rice in your rice maker (or pot) and get it going.

Meanwhile, chop up your veggies and sausage and have everything at the ready. Pour a tablespoon or so of olive oil in a big skillet, let it heat up. Throw in your onions and cook them till they brown a little. Throw in your garlic and a pinch of red pepper flakes. Saute for a minute or two. Put your sausage in the pan and let it brown on the sides a little, or as much, as you want. Then throw in your lovely, colorful peppers. Sprinkle on some soy sauce or Braggs to add some salty flavor and loosen up any burnt stuff. Add your pepper (and salt, if you want) to taste. Throw in a couple tablespoons of water to help steam the veggies. Put the lid on for 5 – 10 minutes to let the peppers soften. It tastes the best if the peppers are a tinsy bit crisp. When it’s done, pile the sausage and peppers on top of a bed of jasmine rice and eat up. You can add some hot sauce or Braggs or soy sauce to the mix for some added flavor, if you’d like. Otherwise, enjoy!

This recipe is awesome because it’s delicious as is, but you can mess with it as much as you’d like… add spices, add veggies, change up the sausage or make your own sausage, etc. Feel free to make it your own.

Happy first MOFO day! See you tomorrow for Part 2 of our Field Roast love post.